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The Cambrian Explosion Has Just Gone Nuclear

Günter Bechly
Image: Cambrian animal phyla, by CNX OpenStax, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Here are two very interesting updates to my recent articles at Evolution News on alleged Ediacaran animals and the Cambrian Explosion.

Dickinsonia Could Still Be a Fungus

In my article (Bechly 2018b) about the iconic and enigmatic Ediacaran organism Dickinsonia, I showed why in spite of new biomarker evidence presented by Bobrovskiy et al. (2018), Dickinsonia is unlikely to be an animal. Such evidence-based skepticism is of course not greatly appreciated in Darwinist circles and provoked a response.

At the Peaceful Science forum, an anonymous atheist and self-professed blogging graduate student (evograd 2018), who obviously lacks sufficient expertise as well as some reading comprehension, criticized my article with a red herring quibble about two of six references that Bobrovskiy et al. quoted (which I actually never disputed), while ignoring all real arguments. Just read my article and compare it with his criticism to decide for yourself if it has any merit. Anyway, this young know-it-all then triumphantly proclaimed:

The relevant context here is that the authors were specifically testing the animal affinity for Dickinsonia against other hypotheses of a lichen fungi affinity or a giant protist affinity. By ruling out lichen fungi and giant protist affinities, the only remaining plausible option is that Dickinsonia is an animal.

The problem is, this is simply false. Do not take my word for it, but that of paleontologist Professor Gregory Retallack, who is a renowned specialist on Ediacaran biota. In response to the article by Bobrovskiy et al. he wrote a comment to the journal Science (Retallack 2018) titled “Dickinsonia steroids not unique to animals.” In this comment Retallack explains that the biomarkers found in Dickinsonia fossils are fully compatible with an affinity to lichenized glomeromycotan fungi. If there are even such alternative candidates among living organisms, this may well have been even more the case in the extinct Vendobionta, which have been proposed as an independent Ediacaran kingdom of life by Seilacher (1992). The very alien body plan of Dickinsonia with glide symmetry definitely supports such a Vendobionta hypothesis rather than an animal affinity (McMenamin 1998/2000).

Evolution’s Big Bang

Charles Darwin was quite aware that the sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record poses a major problem for his theory, but he hoped that this problem was due only to our insufficient knowledge of an incomplete fossil record, and therefore will dissolve over time with future research. However, 150 years of paleontological exploration after Darwin has made the problem far worse: not for nothing is it called the Cambrian Explosion. All attempts to explain this problem away have failed (Meyer 2013), including the still beloved artifact hypothesis (Bechly 2020).

Nevertheless, evolutionists still hoped that they can somehow squeeze the gradual evolution of the complex animal body plans into the time between the strange Ediacaran biota and the actual Cambrian Explosion. A good example is a study on arthropod origins by Daly et al. (2018). They claimed to have found evidence for a gradual rather than explosive evolution of arthropods, but instead proved the exact opposite (Bechly 2018a). In their study, Daly et al. (2018) had admitted that the recent discovery of Burgess Shale Type Lagerstätten from China and Mongolia demonstrates that animals were absent before 550 million years ago. They also documented trace fossil evidence for trilobite arthropods around 537 million years ago, which leaves only 13 million years for the evolution of complex animal body plans like that of arthropods. This may sound like a long time but actually it is just about as long as the average lifespan of 1-2 successive marine invertebrate species (Levinton 2001). This alone renders a Darwinian scenario almost impossible. But it turns out that even this short time frame vastly overestimated the available window of time.

Recently, I stumbled upon a paper from 2018 that I had previously overlooked, and it proved to be dynamite. It is a study by a research group from the University of Zurich about the transition from the Ediacaran organisms to the Cambrian animal phyla in the Nama Basin of Namibia (Linnemann et al. 2018). What they found is truly mind-blowing. The window of time between the latest appearance date (LAD) of the alien Ediacaran biota and the first appearance date (FAD) of the complex Cambrian biota was only 410,000 years. You read that correctly, just 410 thousand years! This is not an educated guess but based on very precise radiometric U-Pb dating with an error margin of only plus-minus 200 thousand years. This precision is truly a remarkable achievement of modern science considering that we are talking about events 538 million years ago. 

The authors of the study fully realized that their finding documents an unexpected “extremely short duration of the faunal transition from Ediacaran to Cambrian biota.” Therefore, they speculated about ecologically driven reasons for this rapid onset of the Cambrian Explosion. Of course, no ecological factors whatsoever could solve the information problem of the origin of the new animal body plans in the Cambrian Explosion, as was elaborated by Stephen Meyer in his book Darwin’s Doubt (Meyer 2013). With this new and very precise time frame, the population genetic waiting time problem for the origin of animal body plans is lifted to a whole new level and suggests that no unguided process could ever plausibly explain these data. The Cambrian Explosion has gone nuclear and simply evaporates neo-Darwinism as a brilliant and beautiful but failed scientific theory, as it was recently called by Yale University professor David Gelernter (2019).

References

  • Bechly G 2018a. Alleged Refutation of the Cambrian Explosion Confirms Abruptness, Vindicates Meyer. Evolution News May 29, 2018.
  • Bechly G 2018b. Why Dickinsonia Was Most Probably Not an Ediacaran Animal. Evolution News September 27, 2018.
  • Bechly G 2020. The Demise of the Artifact Hypothesis. Evolution News July 6, 2020.
  • Bobrovskiy I, Hope JM, Ivantsov A, Nettersheim BJ, Hallmann C, Brocks JJ 2018b. Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals. Science 361(6408), 1246–1249, doi: 10.1126/science.aat7228.
  • Daley AC, Antcliffe JB, Drage HB, Pates S 2018. Early fossil record of Euarthropoda and the Cambrian Explosion. PNAS 115(21), 5323-5331. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1719962115.
  • Gelernter D 2019. Giving Up Darwin: A fond farewell to a brilliant and beautiful theory. Claremont Review of Books Spring 2019.
  • Levinton JS 2001. Genetics, Paleontology, and Macroevolution. Cambridge University Press, 617 pp. (Google Books).
  • Linnemann U, Ovtcharova M, Schaltegger U, Gärtner A, Hautmann M, Geyer G, Vickers‐Rich P, Rich T, Plessen B, Hofmann M, Zieger J, Krause R, Kriesfeld L, Smith J 2018. New high‐resolution age data from the Ediacaran–Cambrian boundary indicate rapid, ecologically driven onset of the Cambrian explosion. Terra Nova 31(1), 49–58. DOI: 10.1111/ter.12368.
  • McMenamin MAS 1998. The Garden of Ediacara. Columbia University Press, New York, xii+295 pp. [revised edition 2000, 324 pp.]
  • Meyer SC 2013. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. HarperOne, vii+498 pp.
  • Retallack GJ 2018. RE: Dickinsonia steroids not unique to animals. Science 2018-10-03.
  • Seilacher A 1992. Vendobionta and Psammocorallia: lost constructions of Precambrian evolution. Journal of the Geological Society 149(4): 607–613. DOI: 10.1144/gsjgs.149.4.0607.